Government Senator and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Ashelle Morgan, has been granted one month’s leave of absence from the sittings of the House, in the first instance, as per her request. This request for leave is in relation to the alleged shooting incident that is said to have occurred on April 13th, 2021, according to the shooting victim Cornelius John.
The senator was charged with assault with intent to commit wounding in respect to a complaint brought by Mr. Cornelius John. In her letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, dated 28th June, 2021, Morgan said she hopes that “the trial of the matter proceeds and concludes in the shortest time possible so as to negate any necessity for a further application for a leave of absence”.
The incidents arising on April 13th were investigated and charges were brought on June 24th, 2020. The shooting victim and Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Karim Nelson, were also slapped with charges in relation to this matter.
While Nelson had proceeded to take vacation leave, Senator Morgan did not take leave and sat in Parliament on May 11th of this year. In that sitting of Parliament, Opposition Leader and Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Dr. Godwin Friday was suspended from the House of Assembly after a heated exchange with the Speaker of the House, when he tried to bring attention to Morgan’s presence in the House after she was named as a “person of interest” in a criminal matter. Dr. Friday argued that the decent and honourable thing for the senator to do was to withdraw from Parliament until to matter ends.
Morgan stayed in Parliament while Dr. Friday was asked to withdraw due to disorderly conduct. Since then, there have been a series of protests by the Vincentian public to have Morgan removed as Deputy Speaker. Initially, the young senator did not accede to such requests. The Deputy Speaker, in her letter of request for leave, highlighted that this act was her choice and that she is not by law mandated to take leave.
“While there is no legal or moral obligations for me to take such leave, I have chosen to do so voluntarily because I do not wish for the upcoming trial to distract from or to overshadow the business of the House of Assembly.”
Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has made several comments on aspects of the matter.
In relation to the issue of leave, in a dialogue between the PM and radio host Mr. Philbert John, the host questioned the PM on whether or not this would be done to the senator.
Radio Host John mentioned that public officers who are charged with criminal matters are asked to take leave until the matter ends and asked if Senator Morgan will also be put on leave.
Dr. Gonsalves noted that Morgan “is not a public servant in the way in which, she holds the office of senator but she doesn’t hold the office of public office as a public servant”.
He referenced the Constitution and went on to speak about freedoms allowed in various capacities according to the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, PM Gonsalves, in recent comments on NBC radio, said that Morgan may take a leave of absence “so that it’s not a distraction from the business of Parliament”.
No comments have been made by the Leader of Opposition as yet on Morgan’s stance to take leave. However, he had tabled the motion calling for Morgan to withdraw from Parliament. The Parliament sitting that was scheduled for today was recently postponed.
Morgan was granted bail in the sum of $2000 and will appear at the Calliaqua Magistrate Court on July 5th, 2021.